Thursday, November 12, 2009

Former Harper Campaign Manager Calls Michael Ignatieff a Role Model

Kind of an interesting story from the Winnipeg Free Press regarding an interview with Tom Flanagan, Stephen Harper's former campaign manager. He was candid about Harper's coalition attempt in 2004 and stated that Michael Ignatieff was a scholar and 'role model'.

I'm glad he did that, because these horrendous attack ads are painting Mr. Ignatieff as being some kind of demon. He has already earned an international reputation as the go to guy when the world is in a mess and needs a little perspective. After 9/11 he was often sought out, but his statements, which were relevant in the wake of that , are now being turned against him.

Some people may wonder why I post so much about Stephen Harper and the Northern Foundation, or some of the other groups he's been involved with; but I always give them the smell test. For instance if Harper learned that Michael Ignatieff once belonged to a group that has been referred to as 'white brotherhood', would he use it against him? We know he would.

After visiting the site, I saw just how dirty the Reformers can be, and realized that there are no longer any rules. You can't meet Stephen Harper on the high ground, because he doesn't go there. Instead you have to get down in the gutter. Flanagan in a round about way is telling the Liberal leader to visit that gutter, if he wants to survive.

Sadly, it's true.

Ignatieff 'quality guy,' Flanagan says
By: Frances Russell
Winnipeg Free Press
November 12, 2009

Tom Flanagan, the University of Calgary political studies professor, doesn't necessarily think the same way about Michael Ignatieff and the legitimacy of coalition governments as Tom Flanagan, Stephen Harper's closest confidant and former campaign manager.

"I actually have a lot of admiration for Ignatieff," Flanagan said in an interview Friday. He was in Winnipeg to lecture on political ethics and campaign strategy at the University of Manitoba.

"Michael Ignatieff to me is a world-famous scholar. I'd like to be a world-famous scholar. I'm not, so Ignatieff to me is a role model... I think he is a quality guy and I think Canada's lucky to have him as Liberal leader. I have the same views about Stephen Harper and I think we're lucky to have all of our leaders."

Yet Flanagan defends his party's perpetual ad campaign characterizing the Liberal leader as "just in it for himself" and "just visiting" Canada. Asked if he personally agrees with his party's characterization of Ignatieff, he replied: "I don't necessarily think that." But he insisted it was up to Ignatieff to repudiate the "just visiting" claim. And he doesn't know why the Liberals "don't make their own plausible case" against the prime minister. "It wouldn't be hard to write the ads."

Recently, Flanagan received a lot of media criticism for saying that political attack ads don't have to be true, they just have to be plausible.

During last winter's constitutional crisis, Flanagan wrote in The Globe and Mail that "Gross violations of democratic principles would be involved in handing government to the coalition without getting approval from voters." A week earlier, Harper, too, claimed the opposition could not take power without an election.

Flanagan now appears to have shifted his position and backed away from Harper's. "I wouldn't rule out parties coming together to form a coalition and whatever Mr. Harper may have said in the heat of the moment I don't think should be interpreted as constitutional theory because he was in a fight for his life." However, he insists any coalition relying on the Bloc Quebecois must have prior electoral approval.

The author of Harper's Team: Behind the Scenes in the Conservative Rise to Power, managed the Conservative 2004 and 2006 election campaigns. But he insisted he "wasn't a part" of a coalition proposal made by then Official Opposition leader Harper, NDP leader Jack Layton and Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe in September 2004 that would have included the Bloc as a full partner.

Harper and the other two party leaders drafted a letter to the Governor General pointing out they had a majority and stating "this should give you cause, as constitutional practice has determined, to consult the opposition leaders and consider all of your options" before dissolving parliament.

"I don't know exactly what happened," Flanagan said.

Flanagan admits he doesn't know whether Canadians want to watch negative political attack ads 365 days of the year. "I don't know whether it's a good idea or a bad idea. It's just the way things are flowing." He predicted Canada is now into what he calls the "permanent campaign." And if Canadians don't like it, they should put pressure on their parliamentarians to cancel all government support to political parties.

"As long as parties have access to all this extra money and as long as you have spending caps that prevent them from spending during the campaign, I think they will start spending it between writs."

He points out that the Conservatives can spend $20 million in an election campaign while only having to raise $10 million.

He also hinted that should the Conservatives win a majority government, they would repeal the ban on third party political advertising.

"There is no chance of it happening in a minority parliament... Parties in Canada so far have not made extensive use of outside parties... It will happen if well-meaning reformers manage to cap expenses outside the writ period."

Flanagan refused to agree with research showing that negative political ads are helping to push down voter turnout. Voter turnout has plunged from 72 per cent in the 1993 election to just 58 per cent in the 2008 contest. Research done by Angus Reid Strategies showed Conservative attack ads during the 2008 campaign persuaded 11 per cent of Canadians not to vote at all and had the hoped-for effect of depressing non-Conservatives from voting while inspiring the party faithful to go to the polls.

"I'm not aware of any demonstrated link between pre-writ advertising and declining voter turnout... I think you'd have to say that the Conservatives' pre-writ advertising campaigns have been highly successful," Flanagan said. "So I think as long as they continue to work, they will do it and the other parties will imitate the tactics to the extent they have the money to do it."

Posted by: Lloyd MacIlquham (Blogger)
November 12, 2009 at 10:09 AM

This is a great article and a real eye opener. For whatever reason Tom Flanigan has been "telling all" for a while now. I always suspected it was some sinister plan to somehow 're-habilitate' Harper and the Con's in the public eye - this is how they used to be but now they have changed, and bring him back to he conservative fold. But now I think there is a real desire to be accepted as a legitimate academic as opposed to a Harper henchman, which has the effect of requiring him to talk about things in a truthful light as opposed to standard Con approach - everything is political, truth is irrelevant.

Flanagan saying that he doesn't necessarily think the attacks against Ignatieff are true but it is up to Ignatieff to repudiate them is something that should raise the eyebrows of every Canadian. As you pointed out is in line with his previous statement that these attacks don't need to be true just plausible.

All Canadians should become aware of this. For Harper and the Con's it is power, grabbing it, clutching onto it, mongering it and Canada be damned."Conservative attack ads during the 2008 campaign persuaded 11 per cent of Canadians not to vote at all and had the hoped-for effect of depressing non-Conservatives from voting while inspiring the party faithful to go to the polls."I agree with this 200%. The only thing we can get out of the 4 by-elections this week is verification of this.


  1. "He has already earned an international reputation as the go to guy when the world is in a mess and needs a little perspective."

    You have got to be kidding! Seriously. Ignatieff is an author of the type of books there are mountains of at any bookstore, and I bet you that 99.99999% of Canadians or Americans ever heard of the man before he showed up to be PM. I never did. Did you?

    Don't forget: the only reason Ingatieff is where he is in life is because he came from a family with a money, property, and a name; and he could afford to become a history prof and a "public intellectual (HA!)". Do you think that kids who have to worry about actually working for a living would every waste their or their parent's money on become a history education? Absolutely not on this planet ... only those with sense of privilege and a big fat security cushion. He was lazy, and is a poser, a fake, a fraud, a bad actor, and folks like are his enablers.

  2. With all due respect, Mr. Ignatieff has spoke at most major universities, the U.S. Naval Acadamy, the Coast Guard ... He was asked to prepare a lecture series for the University of Edinburgh about terrorism and the world in the wake of 9/11, he prepared a series of letures for CBC in 2000 as part of the prestigous Massey Lectures. He has covered war and conflict for the BBC and the New York Times. He has nothing to prove to anyone.

    Mr. Flanagan is right. Michael Ignatieff is a world-famous scholar and we are very lucky to have him.

    BTW. Even President Obama has read several of Mr. Ignatieff's books and they have been translated into 12 different languages.

  3. "He has nothing to prove to anyone."

    That pretty well sums up why he is a failure as a political leader, and will never be PM.

  4. Has he lost an election yet?

    This came from an article written in 2005. You might remember this guy. The headline was 'Who will replace Stephen Harper?'

    "The clock is ticking on Stephen Harper's political career. The leader of the Conservative Party of Canada has suffered a number of defeats during the summer of 2005: His attempt to overthrow Paul Martin's Liberal government failed miserably. Members of his own party joined the Liberals. Paul Martin's budget and its additions all passed successfully.

    "He briefly had a surge of popularity, but that popularity popped like a balloon when voters saw what his plans for the Canadian Healthcare system was (namely, he wanted to privatize it and sell it off), with polling showing that the Conservative Party had a popularity of 30% go up to 39% and then suddenly drop back down to 23% (the NDP currently have a popularity of 24%, making them a more likely candidate to be the next Official Opposition).

    "His political party is $1.3 million in debt due to his overspending in 2004."

    I ain't over til it's over.